Posts Tagged ‘ EU ’

Crisis Year: International Relations 2014

putin

In a morose way, 2014 has been a fascinating year for those with an interest in International Relations. Resurgent Russia and Islamic State have presented two prominent challenges to western liberal world order. The optimistic ‘end of history’ liberalism of the 1990’s now feels like a golden bygone era of stability and prosperity. In its place is a world where the hegemonic power of the United States is limited by insurgencies and despotic powers. In the field of international relations, realist scholars have had a long awaited ‘we told you so moment’. John Mearsheimer has ruffled many feathers with his article in Foreign Affairs ‘Why the Crisis in Ukraine is the West’s Fault’. Regardless of how palatable it is, Mearsheimer’s argument is frustratingly robust, and he presents credible counters to his critics. EU and NATO expansion has encroached into a region that Russia considers critical to its own security, and the latter has firmly drawn a line in the sand, violating international treaties and norms in a display of pure power politics. Although Russia is paying a price, it has asserted itself outside of its own borders in a way that the west cannot prevent. It seems that at long last, balancing is occurring, and the ‘rest’ are pushing back against the ‘west’ after a decade of diminishing US legitimacy and soft power. Continue reading

The Intrusion Of Social Networking

Facebook1

Social Networking website Facebook offers international communication for all its users, seemingly for free; but as we all know- nothing comes free in this world. Facebook users on mobile devices such as phone are now unable to access the messaging service unless they install the new splintered app. Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg intends to monetise the app, apparently at the cost of the user. This move goes against everything social networking stands for – but it is not the most concerning aspect of the newly formatted service.

The app promises that it is faster than the built in messenger system and Facebook boast that they have seen 20% of messengers are responding quicker. This is an interesting claim from the multi-billion dollar company considering that Facebook uses an instant message system. How can a message be received any quicker than instantly? The only way instant messages can be responded to any quicker is if the notification system is improved to deliver notice of the message received and that would not require a new, separate app from Facebook – which is what the new messenger system is. Continue reading

Government Unveil Action Plan For Jobs 2014

Enda-Kenny

The Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation today published the Action Plan for Jobs 2014, the third annual instalment in the Government plan aimed at building a sustainable growing economy and creating jobs.

The Plan builds on the more than 500 measures already implemented through Action Plan for Jobs 2012 and 2013, and contains 385 actions to be implemented by all 16 Government Departments and 46 Agencies.  Building on the 2013 Plan three new Disruptive Reform topics have been targeted in the areas of Entrepreneurship, Winning Overseas and Manufacturing. Continue reading

News in Brief-Irish Lap Up Weather As Boris Rejects GAA Invite

ORANGE WARNING: IT’S too hot! The EU has ruled Ireland must enter Summer austerity as the heat wave continues leaving some parts of the Island hotter than popular holiday destinations and a severe shortage of paddling pools. Met Eireann’s expert Harm Luijkx accounted for the heat, it’s due to : ’long periods of sunshine every day.’ Tax the sun, tax the sun! NIB warned this day would come! Continue reading

News in Brief- Virgin On The Ridiculous

babyI know we’ve all been worrying about it but it’s ok, the European Commission isn’t banning refillable olive oil jugs in restaurants. PHEW. It’s no joke though. That innocent looking bottle atop the table in your local plastic vine covered eatery could actually be the source of some serious food fraud! Agricultural commissioner Dacian Ciolos has tried to tackle the greasy trickery of restaurant owners supplying their customers with low-grade oil in misleading bottles, however had to concede a u-turn on the policy when it received little support. Turns out, we don’t care if it’s extra virgin or engine, if we can dip our chips in it. An award goes to Scottish MEP Alyn Smyth, a monitor of the policy, who tweeted: ’olive oil proposal was, after all, virgin on the ridiculous’. Continue reading

The clone that we don’t know. Reflection around the EU video-warning to digital identity.

Are we really sure we were not cloned? The question may seem obvious in the answer or limping of meaning, perhaps slightly threatening. But its essence simply wants to be a beneficial provocation, parallel to the one launched by the European Union in recent days. Who will have the curiosity or at least the patience to scroll through these lines can catch the stimulus and give his answer.

A video was uploaded by EU Tube to warn about the risks of our personal informations which is present online.

he recall of the European Union is visually represented by some people who, in front of monitor and engaged in the most common practices online, are completely stripped of their clothes. Without not even realising. The words at the end of the video are emblematic: “Online you reveal more than you think. Take control of your personal data”.

This hollow engages our reflection on one of the most important issues related to Modern Communication: the digital identity. Built just by our personal data entered online through the everyday practices. “17 years ago less than 1% of Europeans used the Internet”- the voice of Viviane Reding, vice-president of the European Commission, highlights – “Today, vast amounts of personal data are transferred and exchanged, across continents and around the globe in fractions of seconds”.

But then, why did we commence talking about cloning? The problem is that the discussion about how much the human reproduction is appropriate and ethical is often dabbed at the exclusive area of Science. In fact, if we talk about cloning, we imagine someone identical to us… physically. As if we look in the mirror and feel strengthened/scared by our copy. The imagination, however, becomes more twisted if it skid on a less tangible level.

Let’s try to think if the much discussed cloning, obviously in a less material manner, has already taken place. Perhaps without our awareness, let alone our consent. And, avoiding to fantasize too much, many presentiments will be rejoin to the EU recommendation on the danger of ‘denudation’. In the video, in fact, the clothes of the people in front of computers are sucked, leaving them naked and mostly unconscious. If we are wondering where these clothes finish up, then we can imagine them wearing our beautiful electronic clone.

We try to understand better: the Internet, the most authoritative ambassador of the recent Communication changes, now has become a fundamental resource in our everyday’s life. A CISCO study of 2011 likens it even to food and water. A real need for the most part of users around the world, in some cases more important than a car or a relationship. In fact, we are always connected. We have become a nonstop jet of marks, movements and informations, often involuntary. And, through these tracks, boundless and unquenchable databases shape our electronic clone. Nobody can be considered non-duplicate or unduplicable. Nobody can play the hermit of this modern virtual society.

The answer to the initial question begins to take shape. We cannot, in fact, be sure that there is not already an existing clone of ourselves. Certainly we are talking about an immaterial and fluctuating entity, but there is. And the worst thing, as suggested just by the EU video, is that beyond our control. Indeed, it may be dominated and controlled by third parties, for the most varied purposes. The lack of control over our digital identity is one of the most important and least evident of modern communication.

It is demonstrated by the Eurobarometer’s report entitled “Attitudes on data protection and electronic identity in the European Union”, related to the end of 2010. Three out of every four Europeans, according to the survey,  agree to put their data online and, at the same time, worried about their use by third parties. The most part of Irish users, for example, claim to have only partial control over the data they provide online. A good 20% don’t have it at all.

The perception of the problems about own digital identity, was analyzed also by a survey in 2011, signed by the famous German company G Data. More than 15,000 users in 11 countries worldwide, have participated in the research, showing that there is the awareness about the risks of the personal data on the network. But it is still defective and outdated.

The wakes that we leave managing our bank account online, booking our flight on the Internet, when we send an email, when we forward a photo or even just while we put our nice “Like” on Facebook, define our virtual clone indelibly. A ‘double I’ that we create ourselves, but that we cannot master. An electronic identity, goods of anyone, with our ideas, our preferences, our tastes and our ways of being… but that we paradoxically don’t know. And that goes for a walk free in the Net with our ‘clothes’, but without our eyes.

“Nothing To Fear” – Kenny on Potential Fiscal Referendum

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has today said that there is “nothing to fear from a referendum” on the proposed eurozone fiscal treaty.

Mr Kenny made the comments ahead of a summit of EU leaders in Brussels at which the wording of such a document will be agreed. Irish government officials are said to be hopeful that the final text will enable the treaty to be implemented without the holding of a national referendum.

Mr Kenny said, “I’ve made this perfectly clear: that when the text is finalised, I will ask the Attorney General formally to present the government with the Attorney General’s response as to whether the agreed text – as finalised by the politicians – is in compliance with our constitution. If it is in compliance with Bunreacht na hÉireann, there is no need for a referendum. If it’s not, there will be a referendum.”

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland radio programme today, Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton said she was hopeful the core of the draft treaty would remain unchanged. She also acknowledged that it would be difficult for Ireland to remain in the eurozone if voters rejected the treaty, saying “I think it would make it almost impossible for us to continue as part of the currency union because being part of a currency union means you have to abide by the rules.” On the same programme, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Trade Pádraig Mac Lochlainn accused the government of “running away from debate” by not holding a referendum.

A Belgium-wide general strike is currently underway to coincide with the political summit in Brussels. The work stoppage was organised by trade unions in protest at the plans of the newly-formed government to cut €11 billion in public spending and to raise the country’s retirement age. AFP reports that no public transport is available and blockades are present on many of the country’s roads, forcing the Belgian government to arrange access for the arriving EU leaders through a military airport.

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte told assembled reporters in Brussels that he hoped the conference would capacitate Greece, Portugal and Ireland to become less reliant on EU funding and to return to the open borrowing markets.

Germany recently confirmed it is seeking to have an EU-appointed “budget commissioner” sent to Greece with powers to override its government’s budget policy if necessary. Any other bailout-recipient country, including Ireland, that consistently miss repayment targets could face a similar fate.

UPDATE:
Twenty five of the twenty seven EU states have consented to a eurozone fiscal stability treaty, with Britain and the Czech Republic refusing to sign the proposed intergovernmental document.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has become the latest opposition politician to voice his reservations about the treaty, describing it as “too limited to solve the crisis”.

The treaty will be formally signed at the next EU summit in early March and ratified by 1 January, 2013.

If the Attorney General decides the treaty does not breach the Constitution and a referendum is not required to implement it, a legal challenge from opposition parties is likely. The United Left Alliance today described not holding a referendum as “utterly undemocratic”.

Ryanair Predicts Further Profits

Ryanair has positively reassessed its profit predictions for 2012 following an unexpected revenue surge of 13% in the final quarter of last year.

The Dublin-based budget airline achieved a net profit of €15 million in the three months up to 31 December 2011, well ahead of the €16 million loss forecast by leading analysts in a poll compiled by the company. Overall revenue during this period came in at €844 million, €25 million more than expected. In light of this, the firm now expects profits for the year to 31 March to reach €480 million.

The increased profit comes amidst a 2% fall in passenger numbers and an 18% rise in fuel costs. The airline maintains it more than compensated for such expenses by raising ticket prices by an average of 17% and grounding 80 of its 270 planes. Improved winter weather conditions also aided air travel after severe snow storms threw the sector into chaos in late 2010 and saw Ryanair lose €10 million.

“The EU recession, higher oil prices, the unfolding failure of the package tour operator model, significant competitor fare increases and capacity cuts, has created enormous growth opportunities for Ryanair,” chief executive Michael O’Leary said. However, the outspoken CEO admitted the estimated €350 million increase in the airline’s fuel bill next year “poses a significant cost challenge.”

While Ryanair and other low-cost airlines such as EasyJet have posted healthy figures, higher-priced competitors continue to struggle in the current economic climate. German group Lufthansa and Air France-KLM have cut profit forecasts and slashed plans to expand in 2012.

According to the International Air Transport Association, Ryanair carried more international scheduled passengers than any other airline in 2010. Its passenger numbers are expected to grow to 80 million this year, up from 76 million in 2010.

Moral Complexities of EU Crisis

The crisis that has dominated the EU has polarised opinion among the citizens of it’s member states and the latest drama is set to continue the debates. Britain’s decision to abstain from the recently proposed treaty change is another example of the rock or hard place decisions that must be made by member states.

From the information that has been made available, it appears that this treaty is a fiscal union deal which will apply strict budget and debt rules on members and penalties on those in breach of these rules.

British Prime Minister David Cameron decided that Britain could not agree to the proposal in it’s agreed form as certain exemptions he was seeking for the UK were not granted. He believed that in it’s current state the new treaty may be harmful to Britain, it’s independence and it’s financial sector; London being one of the World’s major financial centres.

On one hand, Mr. Cameron should be applauded for not being afraid to back his own beliefs, stand up to the powers-that-be and show that his country can make their own decisions without being bullied into agreeing with other EU powers.

On the other hand, the precarious situation the EU and euro zone countries find themselves in now is one that cannot be allowed to happen again. reckless management of finances by member states has lead to not only their own near collapse (such as with Greece) but each individual collapse would have the knock on effect of bringing down most around it. A Greek collapse would have greatly damaged the EU and other member states, especially France whose banks had invested the most in Greek national bonds.

A Greek collapse would also have exacerbated the fear in financial markets that many other EU countries were on the precipice, staring into the abyss (such as Italy). With all the states linked and invested in each other and with other countries and world financial markets also naturally invested in Europe this was a fear on a global scale, as witnessed by Americas constant public statements urging EU leaders to solve the issue.

It seems logical to place restrictions on member countries and monitor them more tightly to ensure countries are not over-spending and leading us again into the disaster in which we have found ourselves.

Although the UK is not a euro zone country it is in the EU, and granted it’s economy has not put the EU under any strain but should it get into difficulty the EU will still have to assist it financially. Therefore should it too, not have to abide by these latest rules. It would appear that in not agreeing to them, Britain is running the risk of isolating itself should it need future assistance.

Furthermore, earlier in the week Britain refused to contribute €30 bn to the IMF as was requested of them by their European counterparts. The British chancellor reiterated the Government’s position that the IMF’s purpose is to protect “countries – not currencies” and said Britain believes eurozone members should take more decisive action to tackle the problems among themselves.

An issue for Ireland is the possibility of being asked to vote in another referendum on treaty change. There is some very real talk of this latest treaty change being attached to a reduction in the repayment terms of Ireland’s debt, which gives the country quite a difficult decision to make.

All are well aware that our national debt is crippling the country and any additional  reduction offered on this debt would have to be seriously considered. However, sentiment in the country appears to indicate that another EU treaty amendment would not be welcome should it go to referendum. This feeling is given further weight by the statements coming from government a few weeks back that any resolution to the EU problem should be found without changes to the treaty thus requiring a referendum. Given the country’s record of rejecting treaties in the past the government clearly want to avoid this step, however the spin has already begun with sounds coming from the Dáil that any rejection of this EU treaty amendment would mean our having to exit the EU and certainly the Euro.

Whether  a rejection would mean this is difficult to know yet. Certainly our relationship with Europe would be severely damaged. Furthermore, it would also leave Ireland in a dire position should our country veer towards bankruptcy again. Without signing up to the current changes and abiding by it’s financial regulations we would be like a vehicle on a long road journey without AA membership – it would be hard to see anyone coming to help us. The AA (EU) certainly would not have to help if we are not fully paid up members. Would a rejection of the treaty mean having to leave the Euro? Quite possibly. If we are not willing to be bound by the new rules of the Euro then we will hardly be allowed to be left in a position to possibly take down the Euro in the future.

No longer being in the Euro could be damaging to Ireland. As a tiny island nation Ireland marketed itself to foreign investors as having a lower corporate tax rate than other EU states, highly educated workforce and being in the Euro and EU thus providing access to the European market.

Yet being a part of the Euro has been a contributing factor of many of the problems we now have, cheap easy credit, tighter connection to other Euro banks. We gorged on the money, squandered and gambled it, bought into all the complex derivatives. Now we find ourselves paying back not only our gambles but the gambles of these other nations and banks because we are part of the reckless collective.

These are the big decisions to be made. Do we acquiesce to the bully tactics of Europe and accept whatever treaty is thrown our way under threat of expulsion? Or do we accept the carrot approach and agree to a treaty we are quite sceptical of in exchange for less crippling debt? Do we take the moral high ground, say no to further relinquishing national sovereignty to Europe and especially the powers of France and Germany, and then go our own way – even if our own way may be fatal.

Should the government leave these decisions to the people or simply use it’s mandate to govern, and with all the inside information made available to it make the best decision for the country on our behalf.

I have a great deal of sympathy for the current government. It has found itself in a truly unenviable position. A position not of it’s own making! It is stuck between a rock and a hard place where every possible turn and decision, with regard to Europe, has as many negatives as positives and is likely to rankle the population and leave some sort of lasting sour taste. It would appear that one way or another this country is going to become weaker and more subordinate to someone before it can become stronger.

King Solomon the wise would struggle with some of these decisions.

The All Conquering Germans, to Whom Our Sovereignty Belongs

Quite recently, proposals were being discussed by the Greeks, methods by which they could raise some much needed funds. The Greek Prime Minister had suggested, off the back of waves of anger towards Germany, that Greece seek reparations for the German occupation of their country during World War II. Such proposals were decried as unfair and merely a grasping at straws by the Grecian Premier. The war, it seemed, was not to be brought up, despite some obvious similarities between the spread of power and influence of Germany in the 1930s and today.

So, one would think that the Germans themselves would do their utmost to avoid any linkage between them and their Nazi past, at least any linkage self-created. The general public, it seems, did not take into account the German need to follow the rule book to the letter, regardless of consequence. This story seems as if it is one explicitly fashioned by one of Germany’s detractors, designed to push people’s buttons and elicit the greatest outrage possible. Incredibly, Belgians who were deported from their homeland to work in labour camps for Nazi Germany are now being subjected to letters from Berlin, demanding tax on any payments they might have received for their work.

Around 13 million people were used by the Nazis for forced labour during the war. At the beginning of 1944, around 500,000 Belgians had been forced from their country to the labour camps, and were one of the few lucky groups to receive payment in Reichsmarks for their efforts. Many of their less fortunate Jewish and Slavic counterparts were simply worked until they died from exhaustion. Among the projects worked on by Belgian workers was the underground factory as Nordhausan, the manufacturing site of the infamous V2 rockets. And in Bremen, they laboured on the Valentin bunker, housing German submarines. 4,000 workers lost their lives there. Belgian Finance Minister, Didier Reynders, has slammed the German demands. He said that this development had come about because of a new German law regarding the taxation of pensions of people living outside of Germany. When contacting his German counterpart, Wolfgang Schaeuble, he did not ‘get much of a response.”

Germany’s image in Europe is already being tarnished yet again as anger rises over the perception that Germany is taking over once again, this time, economically speaking. What this highlights is the need in Germany to simply follow the rules, without questioning their implications or consequences, on either themselves or on those who are most impacted.

I hope Ireland and our government is not expecting any leniency from the new German empire. If Ireland stays within the EU, continuing to follow their rules and stipulations, and if Germany keeps ascending to the position of ruling country within the continent, the consequences for its underlings will be dire. Don’t expect an ounce of sympathy for your situation. Nor indeed a helping hand greater than what is prescribed. If it’s not in the rulebook, it’s not going to happen.